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10% Would Take Less Pay to Telecommute, Study Says
 

By Aliah D. Wright  6/13/2014
 

Can telecommuting improve recruiting?

According to Staples’ third annual telecommuting survey, 71 percent of telecommuters consider teleworking an important benefit when considering a new job. But HR experts said HR has to make sure managers are comfortable with teleworking employees in order for telework to be successful.

Ten percent of respondents in Staples’ survey said they would take a pay cut in order to keep teleworking. And according to the Global Workplace Analytics and the Telework Research Network, 36 percent of people would chose telecommuting in lieu of more money.

Why?

It all boils down to work/life balance.

“Not only does telecommuting lead to a happier workforce, it’s also a critical benefit to have from a recruiting standpoint,” said Paul Mullen, vice president of technology solutions for Staples Advantage. “Employers who are flexible and support their staff with the tools they need to telecommute have a definite recruiting advantage.”

Steve Levy, a New-York based recruitment expert, pointed out that “offering [telecommuting] and managing it well are often miles apart; it’s best if the candidate asks, ‘May I speak with current employees in roles similar to the one I’m interviewing for who are happy with telecommuting?’” Staples’ study points out that 38 percent of candidates have asked about telecommuting options during job interviews.

“Do those who telecommute perform better in the long term?” Levy asks. “Sure would like to see if anyone has metrics on this ...”

The Mobile Work Exchange is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that supports and studies this issue. “Telework is a great recruitment and retention tool for agencies and companies alike,” said Cindy Auten, the Exchange’s general manager. “According to the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, those employees at the lowest pay categories that telework, show the greatest increases—12 percentage points—in employee engagement and global satisfaction,” she said. “By offering flexible work/life strategies, such as telework, federal agencies become more desirable to the next generation workforce.”

Staples’ study points to trends among today’s workforce that businesses and HR departments should take note of when planning recruitment strategies:

  • 19 percent would avoid a potential new job if telecommuting wasn't offered.
  • 67 percent would reduce office perks to be able to telecommute.
  • 69 percent of those who do telecommute say they save money in transportation costs.
  • 74 percent say telecommuting helps them achieve a better work/life balance.

Employees surveyed also cite reduced stress as a major telecommuting benefit (69 percent)—up from 48 percent in 2013. In fact, 88 percent of surveyed employees believe telecommuting is a win-win for both them and their company—and employers agree, according to Staples, which conducted the online survey of 137 managers and office workers at organizations in the United States and Canada.

  • 65 percent of employers who allow their workers to telecommute report happier employees.
  • 33 percent of employers report less absenteeism in the workforce when telecommuting is allowed.

Additional benefits, according to the Mobile Work Exchange, include:

  • Business continuity.
  • Improved productivity.
  • Real estate savings.
  • Improvements in retention as well as recruitment.
  • Work/life balance and commuter cost savings.
  • Reduction of traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, and wear and tear on public transportation.

Telework also meets legislative mandates, such as the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which according to the telework.gov website was “a key factor in the federal government’s ability to achieve greater flexibility in managing its workforce through the use of telework.”

How to Solve Telecommuting Challenges

Even with these benefits and the growing popularity of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies (50 percent of organizations surveyed offer BYOD, Staples revealed), companies are still doing a bad job of educating employees about proper security measures and equipping them with appropriate equipment:

  • Only 25 percent of employees have been trained on data backup/security best practices.
  • 64 percent of employees name a poor virtual private network (VPN) connection as their biggest tech challenge when working from home.
  • 58 percent of employers report that their telecommuters have connectivity problems several times per month or more.

Employers also want to make sure they’re not playing favorites by offering only some people telecommuting options.

“Offering telecommuting should be done on the position level and not case-by-case,” said MegaGate Broadband’s HR Manager Kyle Jones. “Allowing Employee A to telecommute while not doing so for Employee B—who is also in the same department working the same position—creates a variety of potential issues,” he added.

To ensure a smooth and secure telecommuting experience for employees, Staples’ reported that experts recommend equipping the workforce by:

  • Ensuring easy access to e-mail, document sharing, instant messaging and video conferencing.
  • Making sure employees can connect into a VPN as well as taking other security measures into consideration, such as encrypting data for security reasons.

Staples also suggests employers give telecommuters ergonomic furniture to make them even more productive.

“Telecommuting is a work/life balance vehicle; managers have to be emotionally intelligent and be able to balance the egos of those who will and won’t telecommute,” Levy said. “Telecommuting works when there’s a common organizational foundation upon which each manager is allowed to build slightly different houses depending on their functional and group needs.”

“It’s never plug-and-play...” he added during a Google Hangout with SHRM Online on the topic. “HR should sit down with managers and ask if they’re prepared to manage a telecommuting environment.”

Aliah D. Wright is an online/editor manager for SHRM Online.

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